As we near the end of a very painful and unusual presidential election year I remain hopeful about the health of our country and our freedoms. We have heard a great deal regarding the power of the media to influence our thinking and in turn the choices that we make as we vote. I have often noted my concern whenever I hear soundbites being repeated over and over again. Such utterances almost always smack of rhetorical devices used as propaganda. Now as I await the final rendering of the people I find myself parsing all of the sound and fury to which we have been inflicted during the past year. I think of the way campaigns are run and I truly wonder if we actually make our choices based on facts or if we are too easily swayed by cults of personality.
Many months ago a childhood friend confessed her disappointment in President Trump, a man that she had supported in the election of 2016. She had come to believe that he was unfit for the job based on the daily Covid-19 briefings that he held during March and April. She said that she literally ignored news programs, editorials, newspapers, speeches at rallies and other methods for distributing information about the president. She only wanted to hear his words, see his actions in a moment of national importance. She told me that from one day to the next she witnessed him fumbling to keep the nation safe from the virus. She saw him as an incompetent executive and she based her assessment only on her own observations of his behavior. She decided that she must vote him out of office for the good of the country.
I was rather impressed with her methodology. She did not allow herself to be influenced by the way others viewed the president, but simply by using her own observational skills and expectations of how a national emergency should be addressed. As she outlined her concerns I saw the rationality of her approach. She told me that she would not need to listen to stump speeches or watch debates because she had seen and heard and all that she needed to make a reasonable decision. She would not vote for President Trump this time around.
I have thought about my friend long and often as I and everyone else have been bombarded with a spate of election year frenzy. I realize that it is rather absurd to make a momentous decision based on a single debate or rally or speech. We need to peel away the frills and concentrate only on what the candidate is doing and saying, not just during the election cycle, but all of the time. We should quietly and patiently observe just as my friend did. If we strip away the flags, the music, the bombast what do we see? If we forget the lofty promises and look only at what actually happens we might ask ourselves if the candidate’s actions have been satisfactory or sub par. If we listen do we get a vivid picture of what kind of person the contender actually is? What kind of references does the applicant for political positions have? Who are the people who support him/her?
I would love to see changes in the ways that we run our presidential primaries and elections. I believe that the present methods are flawed and do not always result in finding and rewarding the best qualified candidates. I have studied the history of the electoral college and realize that the methods by which those votes are doled out has changed over time. They were not always a matter of winner take all, but used to be divided based on proportion of votes. For example if a candidate won in a state by fifty one percent instead of getting 100% of the votes he/she got only 51% of the electors and the other candidate received the rest. It seems rather tragic to cancel out the actual votes of the people with a system of winner take all and yet since the end of the nineteenth century it is a method that we have accepted as though it is written in the Constitution. The fact is that the Constitution does not address how the electoral college votes should be allocated.
I also find that we get way more information about a candidate from a town hall than a debate. First of all, the debates really are not true debates at all. Secondly they have turned into a kind reality show that is more annoying than informative. I like the idea of having two forty five minute back to back town halls shown on all of the major television stations in which each candidate must answer the same questions about issues without commentary or argument or even analysis. Let the voters get the information from the mouths of the contenders and then let those same voters decide what they like and do not like.
I would love to see an end to the pompous conventions that trot countless speakers across the stage that have little or nothing to do with providing us with factual information. I find these events to be a total waste of time and money that would be better spent elsewhere. Introduce the candidate and allow him/her to speak to the nation. Leave off the decorations and images of smiling supporters standing in the background. We do not need the distraction from what should be the message that we need to hear.
No matter who wins the current election I believe that we all know that things have gone off the rails with both parties. We have turned over the elections to Madison Avenue. They have become expensive advertising ventures designed to sway our emotions rather than to inform us. It’s long past time to make some very necessary changes.